Cairo, March 22, 2010 – A new report by the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) urges reforms in Egypt’s higher education system to ensure responsiveness to the labor market requirements and reduce social inequalities arising from differences in educational opportunity.
The review of the Egyptian higher education system, titled “OECD/World Bank Reviews of National Policies for Education: Higher Education in Egypt”, was released today at a dissemination event hosted by the Ministry of Higher Education. The European Training Foundation (ETF), an agency of the European Union, has collaborated with OECD-World Bank in the joint review.
The review commended the Government of Egypt’s efforts in improving the higher education system and noted the various concrete reform initiatives. However, the review calls for greater attention to be given to structural reform, changing the institutional culture and increasing the capacity of the system to contribute to the realisation of national goals.
“Such reforms will support Egypt’s efforts as it continues to improve its competitiveness in the global knowledge-based economy through investing in human capital; provide appropriately for a more diversified student population; and most importantly, reduce social inequalities arising from differences in educational opportunity,” said A. David Craig, Country Director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti.
The review highlighted the following four challenges that are currently facing the higher education sector: (1) narrow access and limited opportunities for students; (2) poor quality of educational inputs and processes; (3) deficiencies and imbalances in graduate output relative to labor market requirements; and, (4) under-developed university research capability and linkages to the national innovation system.
“In preparing this joint review, the panel of experts made sure to listen to the various stakeholder groups, thus, benefiting from interactions with government agencies, employers, various higher education institutions and students throughout Egypt,” said Ernesto Cuadra, World Bank, Lead Education Specialist.
“During this participatory process, the review panel was advised that the lack of balance and fit in graduate supply to the labor market is at the core of Egypt’s challenge, not just for university education but for all forms of higher education and for secondary education, including notably technical and vocational education and training,” said Jamil Salmi, World Bank, Tertiary Education Coordinator.
To achieve the required reforms, the review recommended actions to be advanced into the following ten main directions: reducing structural rigidities in the higher education system and facilitate the establishment of new higher education institutions; improving national steering and co-ordination; widening choices for students; increasing the capacity and flexibility of higher education institutions; improving the availability of information to guide student choice; diversify sources of funding; and financing the system more equitably and efficiently.
Findings from surveys of students and graduates of Egypt’s higher education and vocational education sub-sectors indicated similar concerns about the necessary need to strengthen the links between higher education and the labor market.
“In analyzing the labor market demand, the review finds that while there is a chronic over-supply of university graduates, especially in the humanities and social sciences, there is shortage of below-university qualified, skilled personnel,” said Ian Whitman, Head of the Programme for Co-operation with Non Member Economies at the OECD.
“Furthermore, at the time university graduates fail to obtain employment in their fields of study, employers seek graduates who have more than technical subject knowledge but also “soft skills” of communication, team work, problem solving, reliability, and adaptability,” said Michael Gallagher, Executive Director, Group of 8 Australian Universities and Rapporteur of the review.
Overall, the review urges to address not only the horizontal dimension of the mismatch – the skewed pattern of student enrolment by field of study – but also the vertical dimension – the disproportionate valuing of university education over other types of higher education.
Therefore, the review underlined the need to improve the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) system and its quality, relevance and status of technical and vocational education and training at both the secondary and tertiary levels.
Another key recommendation of the review was the need to strengthen university research capacity and its links to innovation. “To identify areas for future investment and inter-institutional collaboration, it would be useful to map the research strengths of public universities. Subsequently, a select number of universities, or faculties or centres within them, might be invited to apply through a competitive programme to establish graduate schools or research clusters in designated fields where Egypt seeks to build its capacity,” the review finds.